This weekend marked a profoundly painful anniversary in the history of the modern State of Israel, one whose agonizing consequences continue to haunt the Jewish state.

It was on April 23, 1982, that IDF soldiers descended on the Jewish community of Yamit in northern Sinai not to defend it, but to uproot and destroy it.

As part of the peace treaty with Egypt, then-prime minister Menachem Begin agreed to withdraw from all of the Sinai, which necessitated the forced evacuation of more than 7,000 Israelis who had made the desert bloom.

Over 2,500 of them resided in Yamit, which came to symbolize the resistance to the government’s plan.

Defense minister Ariel Sharon was tasked with overseeing the operation, which was carried out with brutal efficiency.

Indeed, the excruciating scenes of Jewish soldiers dragging Jews from their homes, carting off families’ belongings, and extinguishing communal life in the area, were indelibly stamped into the nation’s consciousness.

A dozen other Sinai communities were uprooted as well, and most of them were razed to the ground.

After a century of Zionism and pioneering settlement of the land, Israel was dramatically turning its back on some of its key core principles, all for the sake of a dubious peace with a dictatorial neighbor.

With its 61,000 sq. km, the Sinai consisted of more than 90 percent of the territory that Israel had liberated during the Six Day Way.

Home to more than a hundred military installations and oil fields valued in the tens of billions of dollars, the peninsula provided Israel with strategic depth and new frontiers.

But all that was torn asunder by the withdrawal from Yamit. And while it may have brought us 30 years of a cold peace with Egypt, conceding the Sinai will likely prove to have been a colossal blunder of strategic proportions.

Consider recent events in the region, which underline the perils inherent in turning territory over to our neighbors.

With the fall of the Mubarak regime, there is no telling who will be running Egypt a year or a decade from now, or whether they will feel bound to preserve bilateral relations with Jerusalem.

So despite giving up the Sinai for the sake of peace, we might end up with neither, which is the worst of all possible scenarios.

Moreover, look at how the territory that we gave to Egypt has been transformed into a staging area for anti-Israel smuggling and terrorism.

Most of the weapons that Hamas has succeeded in stockpiling in Gaza were smuggled in through the infamous tunnels connecting the strip with Sinai.

Needless to say, an Israeli civilian and military presence in Sinai would have prevented this from occurring.

Earlier this month, the government warned Israeli tourists in Sinai to leave immediately because of intelligence information indicating that terrorists in the area were planning attacks.

“Terrorist elements are currently in the Sinai and preparing to abduct Israelis with the aid of people in local Beduin tribes,” the government’s counterterrorism bureau said in a statement.

With no Israeli forces stationed in Sinai, there is little Israel can do about the terrorist threat there other than issue warnings and plead with Cairo to act.

Not surprisingly, terrorists believed to be linked to al-Qaida have stepped into the fray, carrying out a series of major bombing attacks in Sinai over the past decade. In April 2006, 20 people were killed in a bombing in the resort of Dahab. Seventy others were murdered in Sharm el-Sheikh in July 2005, and 34 were killed in Taba in October 2004.

In retrospect, the pullout from the Sinai also had still another catastrophic effect on the Jewish state: it set the stage for later expulsions and launched a three-decade long period rife with Israeli retreat. The domino that fell in Sinai would later topple Bethlehem, Hebron and Jenin, and ultimately Gush Katif and Amona. And now the world wishes to see Judea and Samaria, and Jerusalem too, fall as well.

But this is not a child’s game. It is about the very existence of the State of Israel and the Jewish people. Our future is at stake, and we must resolutely turn back the clock and forestall any more withdrawals.

The steady march of capitulation that began in Yamit and continued on through the Oslo process has brought this nation to the brink of disaster, resulting in increasing violence and bloodshed.

We must put an end to this headlong rush towards calamity. Let us use this upcoming anniversary of withdrawal to draw a line in the sand, literally and figuratively, and declare once and for all: never again will Israel uproot Jews from their homes. Period.

On Google Earth, you can still see the site of Yamit, the flattened terrain where a thriving community of Jewish heroes once proudly stood in Sinai.

The bare and bulldozed ground gives no indication that thousands of Israelis once lived and worked, and loved and dreamed, on its fertile soil.

That is the legacy of retreat: barrenness and desolation.

We dare not allow it to become ours as well.

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